Thousands of South Korean Truckers Broaden Strike Action

Thousands of South Korean Truckers Broaden Strike Action

June 10, 2022

Thousands of South Korean unionized cargo truckers are on strike for the fourth day, protesting rising gasoline prices and demands for basic salary guarantees. The strike has caused manufacturing to be disrupted for a wide range of businesses, stymied port operations, and added new hurdles to an already strained global supply chain.

On Friday, truckers expanded their protest to the country's major ports, threatening to halt shipments of semiconductor raw materials and petrochemical goods. South Korea is a major provider of semiconductors, cellphones, automobiles, batteries, and technological goods across the world. Because of the COVID-19 epidemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, global supply networks are stretched.

What are the demands of South Korean Truckers?

According to the country's transport ministry, almost 7,200 members of the Cargo Truckers Solidarity union are on strike, accounting for around 30% of the organization's membership. Truckers have protested at POSCO, a Korean steelmaker, as well as Hyundai and Kia, two Korean automakers.

Due to the protest, production at Hyundai's largest facility in Ulsan's industrial heartland was half on Thursday. According to Reuters, a Hyundai representative said, "There are some interruptions to our products owing to the truckers strike, and we hope production will be resumed as soon as feasible."

The truckers, who are classified as self-employed in South Korea, are demanding salary raises as well as a pledge to extend an emergency measure ensuring freight rates, or a promise to guarantee fixed pricing for their deliveries. The measure, which was put in place during the coronavirus outbreak, is set to expire in December.

First challenge for the newly elected president

Meanwhile, new conservative President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office last month after inheriting major economic issues, has stated that labor-management disagreements should be settled without government interference.

"I believe labor and management will be able to establish the capacity to freely settle their disputes on their own only if the government conforms to the law and principles and remains impartial," he said on Friday, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap.

Yoon dismissed claims that his "hostile" attitude toward workers was escalating tensions.

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